When the Information Sciences and Technology (IST) Building opens this fall, students will be able to access the Internet without having to worry about tangled wires and phone jacks.
The building, expected to open in November, will be the first of several campus facilities with wireless technology capability.
The new wireless communications will help in "bringing University Park up to where most other universities are," said Joel Weidner, associate director of information systems operations for Housing and Food Services.
Housing and Food Services plans to install a faster wired Internet backbone in the residence halls by the beginning of the 2004 fall semester, Weidner said. Deploying wireless capabilities in the residence halls would require all new upgrades, he said.
"Wireless internet could potentially be more efficient and cost effective, but it is not in the budget for the residence halls right now," Weidner said.
The university does plan to bring wireless Internet to the HUB-Robeson Center, although no time frame for the installation has been specified, said Robin Anderson,.. Information Technology Services (ITS) spokeswoman. The connection would be subsidized by a matching fund between ITS and the Division of Student Affairs, she said.
"It's the first building earmarked by ITS for wireless connection," Anderson said.
The appeal of the wireless connections is that it provides a great deal of convenience, said Steve Updegrove, senior director of Telecommunications and Networking Services.
"There's a lot to be said for being able to access the Internet's capabilities without having to worry about a wire," he said.
In order for the wireless Internet to function properly, the computer, usually a laptop, must be equipped with an access card for wireless Internet connection, said James Wang, assistant professor of IST.
In addition to the access-card-equipped computer, there must also be an access point, which will connect the computer to the local network, he said.
"With wireless Internet capabilities the range is usually about 100 meters," Wang said.
Wireless Internet technology could potentially be installed in a dorm room, he said. The access card for the computer costs about $100 and the access point to gain the Internet access costs about the same, Wang said.
Though it is possible to install wireless Internet connections with the access point and access card, such action would not be university authorized, Weidner said. A wireless connection would be unauthorized because of two security factors known as authentication and encryption, Weidner said.
These security measures, when implemented, require a Penn State user ID, he said.
The requirement of the user ID would allow any illegal actions to be tracked, and would prevent those without a Penn State user ID from accessing the university's wireless connection.
The deployment of the wireless Internet connections in the IST Building will be treated as a local network within the IST department itself, Updegrove said.
This means that the responsibility for overseeing the implementation of wireless Internet does not fall under a single department; rather, each individual department is responsible for maintaining its own connection.
The technology deployed in the IST Building is expected to augment the students' educational experiences, he said.
"There's a lot to be said for being able to access the Internet with wireless capabilities. It makes a much more mobile force for students, and we want to promulgate that."